December 21: The Song of Songs

Published December 21, 2015 by Unprodigal Daughter


Today we hear a Gospel passage that we have heard several other times throughout Advent. Taken at face value, this might make it seem as though those who put our Lectionary together were being lazy. However, if we take all of the readings for today as a whole, it gives us a different angle of the same Visitation Story.

The first reading option is from the Song of Songs, also called the Song of Solomon. If you are familiar with the Old Testament, this book is nothing like the Torah, or even the rest of the wisdom literature.

The Song of Songs chronicles two lovers (presumably a spousal relationship) and their desire to meet one another at last. Much of the description used in the Song of Songs is simply various words of praise of one lover to the other–“My lover is like a gazelle or a young stag.” It is generally about a yearning for the other person.

This relates to the narrative of Christ’s birth in a few ways. First, most of the people (excluding Herod and religious authorities) we encounter in the Nativity narratives are out-of-their-minds excited to meet the Lord, even though he is an infant. We see it in the story of the Visitation with Elizabeth and her unborn child. They both respond with utter joy. This is just a single example of the multiple occasions that people were in pure bliss to hear of the Messiah’s birth, but we also see this with the shepherds, with Mary and Joseph, and even with the Wise Men, who trusted that a great king was born even though they did not understand all of the details surrounding his birth. These people longed for Christ for literally centuries, and he had finally came. This desire for Christ parallels the desire we see in the Song of Songs. It is the desire of someone who will be satisfied with nothing less than their loved one.

Next, we can relate the Song of Songs to the Christmas narrative by means of analogy to the Church. We do not just long for Christ as individuals, but as the Church, and the Song of Songs can give us clarity to this relationship. Christ’s bride is the Church, and we interpret the Song of Songs to demonstrate to us how we are longing for Christ to come again. Our waiting was over after thousands of years, and now we are still waiting for Christ to come a second time. When we speak of the Christmas narrative, we are both celebrating the fact that Christ has already come, but we also anticipate his return. For this reason, the Song of Songs becomes a perfect comparison to the Christmas narrative, and the notion of Advent as a whole.

Opening Prayer

Father, all-powerful God, your eternal Word took flesh on our earth when the Virgin Mary placed her life at the service of your plan. Lift our minds in watchful hope to heart the voice which announces his glory and open our minds to receive the Spirit who prepares us for his coming. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen

(taken from

Daily Readings

Reading 1: SG 2:8-14

Hark! my lover–here he comes
springing across the mountains,
leaping across the hills.
My lover is like a gazelle
or a young stag.
Here he stands behind our wall,
gazing through the windows,
peering through the lattices.
My lover speaks; he says to me,
“Arise, my beloved, my dove, my beautiful one,
and come!
“For see, the winter is past,
the rains are over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth,
the time of pruning the vines has come,
and the song of the dove is heard in our land.
The fig tree puts forth its figs,
and the vines, in bloom, give forth fragrance.
Arise, my beloved, my beautiful one,
and come!

“O my dove in the clefts of the rock,
in the secret recesses of the cliff,
Let me see you,
let me hear your voice,
For your voice is sweet,
and you are lovely.”

Or ZEP: 3:14-18A

Shout for joy, O daughter Zion!
Sing joyfully, O Israel!
Be glad and exult with all your heart,
O daughter Jerusalem!
The LORD has removed the judgment against you,
he has turned away your enemies;
The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst,
you have no further misfortune to fear.
On that day, it shall be said to Jerusalem:
Fear not, O Zion, be not discouraged!
The LORD, your God, is in your midst,
a mighty savior;
He will rejoice over you with gladness,
and renew you in his love,
He will sing joyfully because of you,
as one sings at festivals.

Responsorial Psalm: PS 33:2-3, 11-12, 20-21

R. (1a; 3a) Exult, you just, in the Lord! Sing to him a new song.

Give thanks to the LORD on the harp;
with the ten-stringed lyre chant his praises.
Sing to him a new song;
pluck the strings skillfully, with shouts of gladness.
R. Exult, you just, in the Lord! Sing to him a new song.

But the plan of the LORD stands forever;
the design of his heart, through all generations.
Blessed the nation whose God is the LORD,
the people he has chosen for his own inheritance.
R. Exult, you just, in the Lord! Sing to him a new song.

Our soul waits for the LORD,
who is our help and our shield,
For in him our hearts rejoice;
in his holy name we trust.
R. Exult, you just, in the Lord! Sing to him a new song.


Gospel: LK 1:39-45

Mary set out in those days
and traveled to the hill country in haste
to a town of Judah,
where she entered the house of Zechariah
and greeted Elizabeth.
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting,
the infant leaped in her womb,
and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit,
cried out in a loud voice and said,
“Most blessed are you among women,
and blessed is the fruit of your womb.
And how does this happen to me,
that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears,
the infant in my womb leaped for joy.
Blessed are you who believed
that what was spoken to you by the Lord
would be fulfilled.”


For additional reflection on today’s Gospel, enjoy this clip by Kathleen Sprows Cummings.

Additional Activity

There is beautiful religious art available depicting the Visitation. If you have Pinterest, try searching “Catholic, Visitation, Mary, Elizabeth” and enjoy many works of art. You can also click here for more art.

Closing Prayer

Come, long-expected Jesus. Excite in us a wonder at the wisdom and power of Your Father and ours. Receive our prayer as part of our service of the Lord who enlists us in God’s own work for justice.

Come, long-expected Jesus. Excite in us a hunger for peace: peace in the world, peace in our homes, peace in ourselves.

Come, long-expected Jesus. Excite in us a joy responsive to the Father’s joy. We seek His will so we can serve with gladness, singing and love.

Come, long-expected Jesus. Excite in us the joy and love and peace it is right to bring to the manger of my Lord. Raise in us, too, sober reverence for the God who acted there, hearty gratitude for the life begun there, and spirited resolution to serve the Father and Son.

We pray in the name of Jesus Christ, whose advent we hail. Amen.

(taken from

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